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The ADSL2+ roll out has only taken 10 years

Posted on: November 15, 2017, by Nic Elliott

Copper line cabinet

It’s 2007

Fixed rate ADSL has finally been supplanted by a new technology that is rate adaptive and gives up to 8mbps of bandwidth for those closest to their telephone exchange.

Looking back, the rollout of ADSL Max was child’s play. From my experience a majority of lines had a boost in bandwidth, both in download and upload (thanks to ADSL Max Premium), and it seemed to happen over night.

Of course it did have a roll out, and it did take longer than a single day, but what I remember is how it felt. I don’t remember any frustration over when a particular area would be upgraded. It just happened.

But 2007 was a special year. After Ofcom forced BT to unbundle their exchanges, ADSL2+ had been enabled in certain exchanges via LLU providers. Of course, they only did it where it made economic sense to do it – areas of high subscriber density, but it put pressure on BT to actually upgrade to this technology themselves.

And so this was the year that the BT rollout of ADSL2+ started.

We’re used to roll outs of broadband now

We’re used to the frustration of whether the new technology is coming soon to our location, of the delays in implementation, the over promising of bandwidth or reliability.

We’re used to the fact that most roll outs mean that those closest to the technology get a faster connection and those furthest away get nothing.

We’re now used to there being multiple roll outs at a time, where there weren’t really before.

ADSL2+, FTTC, FTTP, G.Fast. We currently have 4 broadband roll outs on the go, and none of them are finished.

And this is my point. After 10 years, the ADSL2+ roll out is finally looking like it might be coming to an end. Nationwide coverage of ADSL2+ by 2018.

I feel really sorry for those still on ADSL Max, and indeed those on less than 2mbps broadband where Max doesn’t even improve it for them.

One of the favourite things in my job is seeing customers get told that they have access to a new broadband technology and that we are upgrading them for free.

It’s people in those locations with the worst broadband that obviously experience the most relief.

And what’s really interesting to me is that most of them don’t scale back their number of lines. For customers where we have been bonding 7, 8 or even 9 ADSL Max lines together to give them a bandwidth of maybe 8-15mbps, and they suddenly can get FTTC, they have all kept that many lines.

The step change is obviously amazing if you go from 8mbps to 400mbps, or from 15mbps to 600mbps, but this is what business needs these days.

There’s a commercial reality to what locations get broadband first, or at all

We’ve blogged before about the commercial realities of rolling out new technology (particularly FTTC where you have to replace the local cabinets) and how there are economic pressures.

We’ve also passed comment on how living in a rural location offers many benefits that you shouldn’t expect elsewhere, and that asking for super fast broadband as a right is the same as saying you want a 4 lane motorway next to your door because you have a right to easy access to London. You have to take the rough with the smooth.

But despite it not being a universal right, I can’t help but feel that the rollouts of successor technologies to ADSL2+ could have been delayed a bit in order to finish the WBC 21CN upgrade programme.

Surely we could have helped those areas sooner than 10 years?

I wrote an email ten years ago saying “Good news, we are upgrading you to ADSL2+” that was sent to any customer about to benefit from the roll out, explaining what we need to do next and how we would make it seamless.

That email is still going out today as exchanges are upgraded and will do until next year at least. Surely it should have been obsolete a long time ago?

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